149: ‘The Power of Curiosity and Continuous Learning’, with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough

A conversation with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough.

149: ‘The Power of Curiosity and Continuous Learning’, with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough joins the podcast to talk about the value of hands-on experience in understanding the transition from digital design to physical creation, the importance of making mistakes and learning from them in the iterative process of prototyping, creating and manufacturing, the resident program at the Autodesk Technology Center, the importance of maintaining real relationships with partners, the power of curiosity and continuous learning, and more.

About Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough:

Mary Elizabeth manages the Technology Center San Francisco and a talented team of Research and Design engineers working within Autodesk Research. She's been with the company for almost a decade and has worn many hats. Her background is in fine art, music and furniture design, and she was an Exhibit Developer at the Exploratorium museum prior to joining the company.

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149: ‘The Power of Curiosity and Continuous Learning’, with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough
Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough joins the podcast to talk about the value of hands-on experience in understanding the transition from digital design to physical cre…

Episode Transcript:

149: ‘The Power of Curiosity and Continuous Learning’, with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough

[00:00:00] This episode of the TRXL podcast is made possible with support from ArchIT.

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Welcome to the TRXL Podcast. I'm Evan Troxel. Before we get into today's conversation, if you are a regular listener and enjoy these episodes, please do this community a favor and subscribe both on YouTube and in your [00:01:00] preferred podcast app. Your subscription is incredibly valuable in supporting what we're doing here to create this resource for the AEC industry, being a subscriber, which is completely free, directly influences two things. My ability to attract sponsors that help keep this show going and my ability to attract high-profile guests, which is great for you. My goal is to deliver quality episodes to provide value to you and the industry as a whole.

So if you haven't subscribed, I encourage you to do so. As I mentioned, it's completely free and a great way to support the TRXL podcast In this episode, I welcome Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough. Mary Elizabeth manages the technology center in San Francisco and a talented team of research and design engineers working within Autodesk Research. She's been with the company for almost a decade and has worn many hats. Her background is in fine art, music and furniture [00:02:00] design, she was an exhibit developer at the Exploratorium Museum prior to joining the company. I had the opportunity last summer to go on a guided tour of the Autodesk Technology Center in San Francisco when attending the AIA Conference on architecture. And the tour was led by my guest in this episode and as a maker myself it is a pretty remarkable resource, so I couldn't wait to have this conversation.

Today we discuss topics including the value of hands-on experience in understanding the transition from digital design to physical creation, the importance of making mistakes and learning from them in the iterative process of prototyping, creating, and manufacturing The resident program at the Autodesk Technology Center, the importance of maintaining real relationships with partners, the power of curiosity and continuous learning, and more.

This was a fantastic conversation with Mary Elizabeth. I think you are really going to enjoy it, I hope you'll not only find value in it for yourself, [00:03:00] but that you'll help add value to the profession as a whole by sharing it with your network. And now without further ado, I bring you Mary Elizabeth ​

Evan Troxel: Mary Elizabeth, welcome to the podcast. It's great

to have you.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: you. It's great to be here.

Evan Troxel: So, we were talking a little bit before we hit record here, uh, about my new digs in Southern Oregon. And one of the things that I have that I didn't have before is a shop.

And one of my favorite books is by Matthew Crawford. It's called Shop Class as Soulcraft. Have you ever, have you heard of that

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Oh, but now I'm excited. Yes.

Evan Troxel: recommendation for you. Yeah. It's about the value of blue collar work and just trade work, um, but working with your hands and, and the value that it can personally bring to you, meaning and value that it could bring to you personally, but also to serve, you know, community and society.

So I'm, I'm really [00:04:00] excited to have this conversation with you today.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Me too. And this really resonates. So yeah.

Evan Troxel: Awesome. Well, my, my shop is not as cool as your shop. I, I know I've got the chance to visit the Autodesk RD facility in San Francisco. Is it Pier nine? Am I, am I

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Is the technology center in San Francisco? Yes.

Evan Troxel: Right.

Technology Center in San Francisco and Wow. What an incredible facility. And you run that facility and, and maybe you, we can just start there and give us an overview of what is encapsulated in that place.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Okay, wonderful. Um, so I work for Autodesk. I'm part of Autodesk Research and I manage the technology center in San Francisco. And I manage a really stellar team of research and design engineers and the shops in San Francisco. We have a CNC shop with additive and a hybrid machine, uh, sorry, subtractive and a hybrid machine.

We have an additive [00:05:00] shop. We have wood and metal for sort of back of house operations and um, electronics. And so the work that we do in these shops, we do, we. Work on Autodesk research projects and we also support, uh, resident community. And what's really important for me as the person who manages these spaces is that they're really inclusive spaces and with PE for people who don't have a lot of experience, um, in with certain workflows, we really wanna empower people to understand the way things are made.

And the reason the techno, one of the reasons the technology centers exist is to validate workflows. from digital to physical. So

it's really one thing to be able to, you know, make a drawing. There's no gravity. You can do some simulations,

but when you get into reality and you're dealing with physical materials, you're actually holding materials or you see the actual scale in [00:06:00] person, um, you have that.

Tactility that you're talking about, you know, getting your hands on things, then

you really start to understand the way things go together. And the shop in San Francisco at the technology in San Francisco is really geared more towards manufacturing. The technology center in, uh, Boston is more geared towards, uh, a EC space.

So you might wanna speak to my colleague Joe at a later podcast because he has a lot of projects he could discuss there. Um, but we're a network of technology centers in the one in San Francisco. We have, uh, we have a Masac machine. We have two Haas machines. We have, uh, FX 20, mark Forge and the Additive Shop.

We have laser cutters, we have consumer prosumer and industrial machines. And, um, the purpose of these spaces is to really, yeah, validate workflows and make sure people make design informed. Sorry. Data informed [00:07:00] decisions for their design so

that they design things more intelligently.

Evan Troxel: Everything that you just talked about is, is like hardware stuff, and obviously there's a huge software component to this as well. When you're talking about data, you're talking about validation. A lot of that can happen. Before you get to physically making, right?

But, but, so, but there's a process there. And obviously Autodesk is, is a software company, right? So I think it's really interesting that Autodesk has invested into this program. And maybe you can just talk about what the residents program is, because I found that to be really interesting as well. You're, you're obviously invest invested in this idea, but then you're actually picking, uh, partners to come in to collaborate with. And I, you know, I, I would love to kind of get into the, the weeds about how all that works with their IP and their

startup and whatever it is. But, but just take, take that and go with it where you

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Okay, so first of all, we work with different resident teams [00:08:00] and we choose them because A, their projects are aligned with certain focus areas. Within Autodesk Research, we choose them because we believe through interviewing them and through their proposals that they're gonna be good members of our community.

And there's a few that I'd love to highlight because they're just

stellar teams. Um, we're not as concerned with whether they're Fusion or Autodesk software users. That's not as important to us as what the project they're doing and how their project might, um, push some research further.

But all residents own their own IP, and if they want to tell stories.

Like where we could help tell their their stories. That's a real win for us. But we stake no claim on the IP of different groups. Um, what they get from being residents is they get training on our equipment. They get access to the resident community. [00:09:00] So there's fellow people working in different domains where maybe they could validate some of their assumptions or test their ideas.

You know, they have a community of people where they, that they can meet with, that they sit with at the desks, and then they have access to the workshops and then they have access to the expertise of all the, uh, research and design engineers who work in there. Um, and it's, uh, uh. Residencies can be a few months, and some have gone on for years because they're really terrific residencies and a lot of these people spin off into other companies.

Sometimes residents meet each other and they're like, we should start a company. You know, like,

or, you know, the combination is

better than, than my piece and your piece. So, um, but we have a range of, um, equipment in our shops, so we're not, uh, manufacturer, um, you know, beholden to only one manufacturer. We are, and we're software [00:10:00] agnostic, so we want to, we want to really in be inclusive of all kinds of workflows 'cause it ultimately makes our machines.

Better, and it makes our fusion software a lot better. So if we understand where gaps and holes are, then we can, you know, bring that back to the Fusion team and give that feedback. And then suddenly we have a new post for a new process that we didn't have before. So what we ultimately want is for people to become fusion users, but sometimes they're not and, or that's not what their training was.

And so, but we don't, we don't turn people away because of that.

Evan Troxel: I think I remember you saying when you led the tour that I was on was that when residents come in, they, they have space that they can dedicate to themselves, but they don't, there's not a requirement to come in and work. Is that correct? 'cause I know there's, there's a lot of big tools that are shared.

There's workspace that's shared, but I assume that there's also some kind of like space that they kind of, it just gets to be theirs because it's nice to go to a shop [00:11:00] and, and have, keep stuff there on the walls or

in the drawers or whatever and not have to worry about that all the time. Can you explain that, like the, the logistics behind that of

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Sure. I should also say that, uh, the technology San Francisco is literally on a pier. So

we're over a body of water that also determines kind of what equipment we're able to have and

what kinds of work we can do. Um, but, and we don't have a lot of storage. We're on this long, narrow, you know, footprints pretty narrow.

So, uh, we don't have a ton of storage. We need to understand what, uh, people's like artifact size or what the work envelope they need for their projects. Some projects are construction scale and we'll then say, Hey, you should apply in Boston. That's a better, that's a better place for you to be.


Evan Troxel: is a lot larger, right? I, I think I,

heard something like three times larger or something like that.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: It's a lot larger and, and, um, and they're doing different work. They have a lot of, um, robotic construction projects and they

have, you know, we have robots here and some industrial [00:12:00] robots in the robotic space, but that's not a space that's open to. Resident work that's more

for, um, robotics research.

But, uh, as far as residents go, when they, we, we sort of ask them a lot of questions.

What kind of tools and technologies are you interested in using? How often do you think you're gonna come in? Um, do you just want to access to the community that in that way you can just sort of have a hot desk and come in when you want? Um, the model had really changed after Covid, I would say, because we had a lot of people who were, um, working remotely and became really used to working remotely.

And where before we had, you know, the place was bustling with people. So now we have a few shop users who are heavily on machines, um, that we've trained. And so we really trust them. But we don't have, like, you dump, dump your stuff here, you dump your stuff here. We just don't have the real estate. So

we, we have to be really choosy and careful about where stuff is.

Staged or, you know, but it's, it's [00:13:00] all about communication, um, with the residents and us. And so that's, it's, it's just constant dance.

Um, one of the residents I really wanted to highlight with you because, and I think we talked about them when you came for a visit, was FICOs. They're the ones who do the autonomous vessel,



Evan Troxel: total sense, right? 'cause you're over the water and, and it's like, I I was hoping you were gonna talk about that one because it's, it's an in intriguing project.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: But I wanna mention them and give them a special shout out because they're such stellar residents. They're such incredible members of our community. They're amazing stewards of the shop. They're super conscientious. They've been mentors to other more junior teams who are doing other projects, who are, you know, really accomplished in their own right.

But the people of FICOs are just so, uh, they're, you're, you know, they just have a ton of experience that they've been able to share. And, um, their project is, uh, this is, they're now on, um, version three, but. The idea is they wanna [00:14:00] take carbon out of our oceans and have us have oceans that are, you know, healthier and safer and better.

And so they have made an autonomous vessel that grows fast growing seaweed on the bottom of it, and they drive it around. It collects a lot of carbon. It ultimately gives itself a haircut on the bottom, and then that becomes a carbon sink that sinks. And it's a carbon sink for that for like a thousand years.

It has.

Evan Troxel: Wow.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah. So it's all about, uh, carbon sequestration. But the, the why I love talking about them is because they're such wonderful researchers and. Uh, shop users who really walk the talk of like, kind of quick and dirty prototypes that are fairly advanced. But, you know, we have this idea, we wanna make an autonomous vessel.

Let's first use a paddleboard, put a [00:15:00] piece of wood under there that's gonna simulate the growth rack for the seaweed that's gonna, and then we're going to ride it around on our paddle board. They're really like, fit too. So, you know, you can just tell they're like, they're very comfortable being on the water, on a paddle board,

you know, and, and then put a bunch of sensors on things.

See how that behaves. Okay, now we're gonna do a stack laminated vessel. We're gonna put it on a c and C router. We're gonna get all the, um, approved chemicals that can be at the pier and coat it with the right, uh, water, safe water, you know, make it watertight. Do all the electronics here. Now we're gonna start driving it around, validate these workflows, get it in the water, find out what's going on, and then, and then now they're doing a 3D printed hole because the version two was so kind of time consuming to make, even though it's

still something they, they put out on the water, but now they're using one of our large scale 3D printers because it's gonna be a lot more efficient to [00:16:00] manufacture that.

And so that's something that, um, the evolution is something that really happens naturally here with our, with our residents because them getting access to these tools and technologies, making things themselves. 'cause we're not a service provider. We will give you all the information you need, but you're gonna make it yourself.

Once they start making things themselves and they see how laborious stuff is, or how expensive it will be or how time consuming it is, then they start doing the calculations of how. Much that will cost to get it manufactured, you know, writ

large. And they want a number of these vessels in the, in the water.

So, uh, the, now they're doing a 3D printed version and it's working beautifully. So this is

just a, I don't know, they're just a wonderful team and it's just so amazing to see their, the evolution of their project.

Evan Troxel: That iterative process that they're going through right there [00:17:00] on display. I, it's gotta be inspiring for others who are, who are also residents there, or thinking about becoming, maybe people doing tours, things like that. Because you do get to see, I remember seeing that the vessels,

when, you know, the different versions of it.

And I think that there was a, I think it was gray, it was a 3D printed hole, it looks like, and give people an idea of the size. I


Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: right.

Evan Troxel: yeah, it's, it's about three or four feet long,

if I remember correctly. Yeah. So it's not small, like when you say large scale 3D printing, it's not a desktop 3D printer doing this.

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Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I think this makes me wanna mention something else just about like how we procure equipment here and how

we, how we get the equipment we have, you know, it's not random. We do a lot of, a lot of validation and user testing through the work of the residents and [00:19:00] Autodesk researchers. And if these machines weren't in use by them and we weren't finding out what's working and what's not, then we wouldn't have the, the same equipment.


they started to use a, a piece of equipment that just wasn't working well and it was having a lot of clogs and, you know, there was just always issues with, with calibration. And so we, we started because, because they were really using the, the whole, um, print bed of that former printer. I. We, we looked into a different technology and so I sent my additive, um, SME to, uh, like a trade show for additive manufacturing.

And she came back and said, Hey, this one looks really interesting. What do you think about this? So we did a bunch of research, talked to them, and then we got this printer. It was one of these things where it was like flat packed and we had to assemble it ourselves. So the [00:20:00] team like really pulled together and I mean, that's really hard work and a

lot of dedication. And now that printer is doing incredible things and now FICOs is printing full scale holes, no problem at all.

And so a lot of the, a lot of the ways we learn about, um, things that work and things that don't work is through these resident projects. It's a really immediate feedback loop for us.

Evan Troxel: One of the projects that I thought was really interesting was, it actually is a EC related, but from a building, kind of dismantling and re recycling standpoint, right? Which was the computer vision. Um, nail puller, screw puller. Like

it would take timber and it would. It would scan the piece of wood and you got, and they would have nails driven it at all different angles and screws and, and they would be bent and they'd be straight and they would be all over the place.

Just like you would find when I, I'm literally doing a remodel project next door to this room. And it's like, I I, if you pull out an old piece of wood, there's a bunch of stuff in there and, and [00:21:00] the recycling doesn't allow for mixed materials like that.


And so the metal all has to be pulled out.

Everything has to be cleaned off the wood. And so maybe you could just explain that project. 'cause I thought it was, when you watch it happen and it's like, wow, that's, this is super, a super cool idea and it's happening right here in front of us.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: It's, yeah, so that team is called Urban Machine, also Incredible. Incredible team of people. Um, my team and, um, the person who runs the resident program got to visit their facility in Oakland, where what you saw was about, I don't know, a 10th of the size or


of the size.

Evan Troxel: this is a small demo unit. Like

not the, not the, yeah.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: and the real demo unit is 80 feet long.


um, what they're doing is taking lumber that is riddled with metal and nails and hardware, and they're, they, because they're [00:22:00] using computer vision x-rays, cameras, uh, they're able to find where the metal is on this piece of wood. Clean it first, like it goes through this sort of like these. Brushes, and it's kind of like this grabber thing that feeds it through, like on a conveyor belt,

and then it starts pulling, like aggressively pulling out these pieces of metal.


Evan Troxel: It's

like a robotic pincher kind of

a thing. right.

That that's, it's almost like a CNC where it's, it's on multiple axes. So

it can, it can, it can get to

these different angles.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: And the end effectors that are pulling the, the grippers that are pulling, um, all of the hardware, they're different kind of grippers because a lot of nails are bent, like nothing is perfect. And so it'll do a first pass. It might miss some nails, it'll do a second pass. Ultimately, it will confidently bring every piece of metal out and then it will do a final X-ray, because you, like you said, [00:23:00] you can't use any piece of wood that has any metal in it.

Like people just simply won't


it, you know, to be sold. So, uh, what they're doing is they're, I mean, some of this. Wood is old growth redwood, you know, it's

old timber, it's beautiful wood that you can't even get anymore. And so

they're reclaiming it and putting it back into the, the economy so that you

can, so builders can choose from this.

And also, this is really preferable, uh, timber for a lot of people. But yeah, what you saw was a very scaled down modular version. The demo was just as impressive as the big one, you know, it was just incredible to see what they were doing. But they bring that around to show people what's possible and then, but yeah, they're on version three now and they're, they're, they're getting a lot of business.

People are really, are really

excited about it.

Evan Troxel: I can imagine that's a, that's a huge deal because [00:24:00] how I'm lucky enough to live near several. Lumber yards that sell reclaimed lumber and just to go look at it, like, it doesn't even compare to

the, the stuff that's being sold on the shelves of the big

box heart retailer. Right. It's not even close.

And if you wanna find something with character, like what's really cool is it's actually enabling this to happen.

Right. Because otherwise this is a, a very manual process. And, and you said it aggressively kind of grabs all these things and, and rips 'em out of there. But it's also like, it's not, it's not chop hacking away at it to actually make that happen.

It's, it's, it's so precise in the way that

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah,

the finesse is kind of remarkable. And the, how the wood looks afterwards, it's not all torn up. It's not,

I mean, yeah, sure. You'll probably have to, you know, run it through the joiner planter, you know, like you'll, you'll have to

process it, but you're not losing, you're not losing lumber. And, you know, some of the [00:25:00] grain on that wood that we saw on when we went to their facility, I just could not believe it.

You just

don't see lumber like this.

Evan Troxel: it's a neat problem to go after, and it would, it to me, it like, I, I would be interested to know like, where'd that idea come from? What, what were they doing that led to that idea? And they're like, we'll take this and we'll solve this problem. I, I, I find that being a, an interesting story in this.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I am sure that story is out there, so I would hate to get this wrong, but I will say for people like FICOs and Urban Machine, it usually has to do with them seeing like there's a problem and it's

affecting like not just me, but the world writ

large. And I, we have ideas and let's just try this out and see if we can make this happen.

Evan Troxel: So

when, when someone like that applies to be in your residency are, do they already have a prototype or, or like what is the starting point that they're coming to you with saying, here's why we need your help to [00:26:00] push this forward?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: yeah, I would say generally nowadays because of how, uh. My team and the, the, the team, like the work that we're focused on within Autodesk Research, I would say yes, we favor projects that are, um, you know, kind of well thought out, maybe even if they don't yet have a physical prototype. They've really done a lot of engineering of, uh, or pre-thought about how something will be manufactured or engineered.

That's, uh, really important. Um, but like Kit Switch is another team I wanted to talk to you about. They're the ones who do that sort of turnkey solution for, um, like kitchens that have like the whole range built in. It's basically they're making these modules that have everything you need to have a kitchen unit.

Um, and they had a. Fully formed idea in their [00:27:00] minds and on paper about how they wanted it to work. And they had a lot of, um, mechanical engineering experience, but didn't have the hands-on experience in the workshop. And they seem

like a really good group to come in. And sure enough, they were, and they are.

And um, but they learned a lot of hands-on, uh, manufacturing techniques here. And so they had a lot of, like, their drawings had all the hit, hit all the marks, had everything they really needed. And they were thinking about things in all the right ways, but they didn't have that practical, physical understanding of how are these materials gonna come together?

How long does

this actually take? What tools and techniques should I actually be applying? Is this C and c? Is this hand work? Is this, you know, if I'm

farming this out, how do I talk about this so that I'm using the right lingo for. Various, you know, vendors. So they were a great example of someone who had a really strong [00:28:00] proposal but didn't necessarily have the physical output yet.

But then they, from the work they did here, now they're, now they have a physical module to to show.

Evan Troxel: Yeah, I, there's a, there's a big disconnect all in, across many industries, right? Where the, the, the designing and the, the documentation doesn't take into account the years of experience and all of the practical stuff and material knowledge and tolerances and, you know, there's a disconnect there. And, and we see it in architecture, especially with students, right?

Because of course, they don't have that real

world experience. But I think the problem with, even in architecture, just to get a little bit esoteric here, off the, off the topic, is it just. There aren't a lot of opportunities to get out and, and look at it, go on a site visit, especially during every stage of the construction process, right?

There are all the different trades. Like, you'd be lucky to get out as a, as an intern on one [00:29:00] project site in the summer because no, you've gotta get in and you've gotta operate that computer and you've gotta get those drawings done. And so there, it's really difficult. So I think what's interesting about a place like this is that it really puts all of that together under one roof, plus the expertise that they can tap into of the people who are there, the other teams that are there, what's worked for you, what doesn't work for you.

Like, what am I not, what should I ask? What are the questions I should be asking as I embark on this project? Because those are the kinds of things that, like, you just can't get in, in the vacuum of just designing in the software, right? It's just, it's just not there. That connection isn't there.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah, I, I fully agree. I'm definitely myself a hands-on learner and it's one thing to read things, it's one thing to study a diagram. It's really a different thing to. Hold a block of material or to hear the sound of a cutter doing a facing pass or you know, like it's, it's [00:30:00] really different to hear the vibration or feel the vibration of a machine and then understand, oh okay.

Yeah. This is a really physical, visceral experience. And then I think it also gives you empathy for what it takes to manufacture things. I think

it gives you a lot more respect of

what it takes to make, like, even like the blue jeans we're wearing, you know, I remember doing a sewing class once and I was like, oh my gosh, so much goes into one pair of jeans.

We had to make a pair of jeans and it was a really hard project and uh, and you know, they had to like be jeans. They couldn't be like avant garde, flotation, denim moment, you know, like it was had to be

actual jeans.

Evan Troxel: Real jeans work like org

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah. Work jeans and um, and. Yeah, it gave me a really big appreciation of what went into things and the things we kind of take for granted.

And I think there's a

lot that's taken for granted about, you know, [00:31:00] all these everyday objects we use and, um,

Evan Troxel: and

the cost even of the tools, let alone the

experience to actually use them. But I think, you know, one thing that I see a lot of people complain about how much it costs for a plumber to come

do something or just to, or, or to create, like you're talking about, to create something and not realizing that that CNC machine is a quarter million dollars,


Like it's. This is, this is not simple stuff. This is not a circular saw that you can buy at Home Depot. Right? Like, it, it's, that's the kind of things we're talking about. And, and, and then to manufacture things at scale to really take that to, from the prototype level of one to three to a thousand or 10,000 or a hundred thousand, I mean, just, just thinking about

my iPhone right here,


Uh, there, there are millions of these and the tolerance is incredible and just what it takes to get to that point. And, uh, just to, just to reinforce what you're saying about just kind of the, this under-appreciation for what it actually takes to make [00:32:00] real things,

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how did you get to hear, I mean, I would love to hear a bit of your backstory to understand like where you're coming from and, and why you've landed in this place and, and why you care about it so much.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I, um, was in school for furniture design and I've always been an artist and I was, I did an internship, um, at, uh, the Exploratorium, which is a hands-on science museum. And I was a good welder at the time because I was making a lot of, um, metal furniture that didn't necessarily even seem like furniture, but you would sit on it or it would like, you'd be like, oh, my body's meant to do this.

Like it was. And, but because of that experience with in Metal, I got put on, I, I started volunteering at the Exploratorium and I got put on a lot of sort of metal projects that were happening there. So I was working under an exhibit developer and then he'd be like, I [00:35:00] need you to machine this, or I need you to weld this, or, you know, I'd come in one day a week.

And then I was also working at a restaurant at the time, you know, I was like putting myself through grad school and, um, the time came where I could like, probably make a lot more money, you know, working at the restaurant, which was a great group of people. Or I could make no money and work at the Exploratorium, but probably learn a ton.

And I chose to do that. Um, and I really kind of feel like I grew up there. I worked with an incredible group of people from like, I feel like people who worked for previously worked for NASA and nascar, like the, the, the breadth of

work and


Evan Troxel: nascar. Yeah,

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: The breadth of expertise there was really pretty remarkable.


um, and it was very mission driven. We were, it was all about, uh, national Science Foundation funded grants that were making a difference in people's lives. And the shop was very close [00:36:00] to the audience. So, um, at, at the time when I started, I was working at the Palace of Fine Arts, and, I don't know, I just really cut my teeth there, got a lot of machine experience, um, got to develop exhibits and realized I really love solving problems through making things.

And, you know, the Exploratorium was pretty scrappy at times, but also we'd get these big budgets and we could make these exhibits that, you know, needed to withstand a lot of abuse from, well-intentioned, but pretty, um, aggressive. Uh, like my, my target audience was always like. 13 or 14-year-old boy who's like going to a science museum and has a hammer.

You know, like, how

is this thing gonna withstand

a hundred?

Evan Troxel: I know exactly what, uh, yeah. It's

like this thing has to last 50 years with, with a bunch of 13 year olds, uh,

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: yeah.


Evan Troxel: it every day.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: yeah.

And so it really helped me understand too, like what [00:37:00] is attractive to me about, um, experiences that I'm expected to do something. And so I really learned how to sort of distill down things, uh, where there wasn't a lot of reading everything you were gonna do made sense of why it was where.

And you know, we did a ton of visitor testing, a ton of validation, um, and a ton of like, exploration on surfaces and things had to be safe. And, you know, you couldn't have something where you poke your eye out or you know, like all these like basic considerations. But that led me to. Um, I don't know. Yeah, I, I worked there for a very, very long time and at the time where, um, the technology center, which was then Pier Nine, um, just called Pier nine, my friend worked here and she was like, do you know any women who know how to teach like wood class and

welding and [00:38:00] metal? And I was

Evan Troxel: she, asking that rhetorically

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: no. She

was like, really flummoxed. And I mean, it's fair because I

had a full-time


I'm like, woman, you're looking at her. And so, and I, at the time, I worked four, 10 hour days there. And so I had a Friday where I could do that. And so I just sort of dipped my toe over here and then I realized, oh my gosh, I have more energy after a eight hour day on a Friday than I do.

Like, something is really

magical about this place and I love teaching. And so I, I, um. It's like a long, long story short, I basically had an opportunity to leave the Exploratorium in a way that was a great way to leave. Like I could do a volunteer layoff and it was good for the whole organization. And so I was able to leave on a high note.

And also someone else was able to stay in a, that was really a valuable member as well. And, um, and then I started working [00:39:00] here, um, as just an instructor and I was just teaching people how to use various tools in the, in the wooden metal shop mainly. And then over time, you know, I, I became like the lead of the instructors and then I started taking over certain other things.

And then when, um, the person before me left, then I, you know, I was doing a lot of the things already, so I kind of understood, I, I, I sort of like really understood how things were working here. And so I started managing this place as well. Um, and I will say like when this. Place started out, it was the premier makerspace of the city.

And, you know, maker spaces were really big. And the, the mission was just so different than what it is now. And now I would say we're a really incredible showcase of like, for small and medium scale manufacturing, uh, businesses who wanna understand like, okay, so how, how do we [00:40:00] safely bring data in? How do we use robotics without making it scary for people or for them to not feel like their jobs are being threatened?

Like, how do we, can you prove this out for us? Like, basically we're the proving ground. And I think that's what I wish I said a little earlier in our, the introduction. You know, like just we de-risk a lot of things because we try things out here. We, we show how it can be done, we show where the pitfalls are, where, uh, workflows can be made more seamless or make easier and, and.

We do that by using the workshops and, and so we've divested of a lot of the sort of makey equipment over the years. Plus, you know, once equipment gets old, it's no longer as shiny and new and effective. And so, uh, right after COVID, when we were coming out of COD, we did a huge shop refresh. So we brought in a lot of equipment that really reflects more the state of the art of, [00:41:00] um, manufacturing facilities.

Evan Troxel: I, I,

I really wanted.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: That was a really long answer.

Evan Troxel: Yeah. How, how you got to where you are. Absolutely. And, and I, it seems like a perfect fit. I, I would love to talk a little bit about the research aspect of this, because that really seems to underlie all of it. It's not just learning how to use equipment or how to bridge the gap between design and manufacturing, but there's this kind of test improve, test, improve, uh, ask the ask questions, use data to make decisions. Can you talk about that layer of it? Because when, when I go down to my shop, like, okay, what I'm, what I'm making is likely a prototype, but all of architecture is a

prototype. Like every building is a prototype, right? So that I don't think about it from a research standpoint when I approach a problem. And I think that is just something I would love to hear more about.

From your perspective of why, why is that the basis of the way you operate? Obviously you're using this to inform your software and how it [00:42:00] communicates with machines and all this, but I'm sure it's, it's much more than that.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Well, so there's a lot of different groups within Autodesk. Of course, it's a very big company, but the umbrella I'm under is Autodesk Research. And some of the projects I can't really talk a lot about in detail because they're Horizon projects. Five or 10 years out, there's research papers that are being written or, you know, there's all this research that's being done on these various projects that will, you'll, you'll see it in, in a few years.

And, but the, the technology centers help support the work of that research because we are the. The physical spaces where we can prove some things out. But there's, there's explorations in centralization of vessels. There's, uh, there's a lot of material studies for, um, architecture. There's, there's things that are being done where there's sort of small experiments [00:43:00] happening, small scale experiments happening, and then partnerships with larger companies who can really help scale up and take some of these, um, these hypotheses.

And then, you know, we're, we're doing a lot of the work here. And then once we validate those, uh, those tests, then we

can get them manufactured, um, at a larger scale. Um, you are gonna talk, I think, a lot in depth about, uh, project Phoenix and the collaboration with factory oss. So that's,

that's one sort of research project that was pretty under wraps.

Um. And now it's, it's much more public. But that's

sort of where we are now in research. There's a lot of different focus areas, um, you know, adaptive robotics, doing complicated assemblies with, with computer vision, with machine learning. but the,

Evan Troxel: come from a maker background [00:44:00] and you

don't, do you come from, you have a research background

or is this something you picked up along the way? Because it does seem to be like the way you're explaining it is like that that is a thread that, that hits every single project that comes in because the, the whole idea of prototyping, validation, validation of ideas before prototyping, testing, iteration is all based on kind of this research mentality,

which it, yeah.

So, and I don't, I don't think that happens in a EC as much. Right. And so that I, I'm interested in hearing about this because on the manufacturing world, which you're much more focused on at this facility. That seems to just be the way it's done, at least the way that you're, everybody that comes through your place is approaching projects versus us.

It's like, I think a EC is much more interested in doing it the way we've always done it than it is about researching and iterating and finding new ways to do things. Obviously there's a

small percentage of

people in a EC who are interested, but for the majority of us, no, it's, it's like, no, this is tried and true.

This is best practices. This

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: [00:45:00] And This

is gonna be faster. Yeah,

exactly. Like we, it'll take forever if we do it this other way, but

Evan Troxel: We can't learn anything new because we can't spend the time to do that.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: it's too expensive. Yeah.

But he, the problem is, as we all know, like the planet is finite, you know, the resources that

the earth has are finite. And so we have to figure out different ways to do the things we've done for

years and years and years. And there are some of these research focus areas that are geared towards sustainability and material, um, materials in construction.

Um, so yeah, there's, there's there's some teams working in the a EC space that are really trying to do things differently than how they've always been done, but. It's interesting 'cause not until you said what you said. I've never thought of myself as a researcher, but yeah, I had to do tons of research before I developed an exhibit.

I had to know what I was talking about. I was

at a science museum, you know, and like here, yeah, you have to do [00:46:00] tons of research before you can, whether it's, you know, figuring out a workflow or it's understanding the material properties of, you know, understanding how machines work, understanding how this group's gonna work with this group.

Like, there's a ton of research that's involved and so, yeah, I think I'm in the right place here. This makes a lot of


Evan Troxel: So has that changed your approach over time? Do. 'cause it sounds like you weren't always like that and now, and now you, you are. Right.

And so I, I don't know. I that's, that's the question is where is, has this changed your approach? Because like my wife is a, is a researcher, she wants to, she has analysis paralysis right?

To, to that extent where it's like, well, we could do this or this, or this, or this or this. And I'm like, let's just pick one and try it. And so I'm much more of a prototyper

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: mm-Hmm.

Evan Troxel: jumping right in. And obviously, I mean, I, I would love to hear kind of your experience with that and maybe how that's, what are the benefits of those changes over time, if that's really what's happened?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Well, I do, I manage a team and we have to get things done. And so I think I sort [00:47:00] of straddle both because I, um,

I have my eye on

what the

deadline is and what needs to happen. And so at some point you have to put the pencil down and you have to actually stop theorizing and start practicing. And my advice to the team I manage and to myself when I'm listening to myself is stop thinking, start doing,


It's through making mistakes where I I, you know, it's great to make mistakes. The mistakes teach you so much. You learn so much more

than when things go perfectly.


not good to make the same mistake again and again.

No, we wanna, we wanna avoid that, but those mistakes are hard won and that sort of builds that tacit knowledge that becomes so valuable when you're working in, in the workshop and with other people.

And it, that experience becomes so valuable. That knowledge becomes so valuable when you're sharing what you know [00:48:00] to other, you know, to fellow researchers who maybe aren't getting their hands dirty. And it's all valuable. What every person is contributing is really valuable. But when there's a physical artifact, I say, get to the materials sooner.

And no, don't prototype it full scale. Don't prototype in the most expensive materials there are. Really distill. What's the, what are you trying to find out? Because. If you are just going on assumptions and researching, researching, researching. Sometimes there's just a fear of like, okay, I'm going in the shop.

I'm gonna make some mistakes. It's gonna be a disaster. But like, that disaster suddenly like six hours passed and you're like, oh my gosh, I just learned a lot.

Never do that again. Gonna do more of that. You know, like,

Evan Troxel: Totally.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: so I, I, because I come from this world where I think I could be in my head a lot, but also on, I had a lot of, uh, I, I have a lot of deadlines all the time and that, you know, [00:49:00] juggling multiple projects, you can't just only have one baby.

You have to have a few irons in the fire because inevitably they're not all gonna work out and you have to sort of. Be able to pivot. And sometimes, you know, you'll do one process, it takes time to either cure or it's printing, or it's centering, or it's doing some process where you have to pivot and change gears and do another thing.

Or you can't just sand a piece of whatever it is, you know, for 10 hours you need to break things up because you'll either go crazy or you know, you just, your brain can't

do that.

So I think I like to encourage people to be nimble and flexible. And also like the, the, the targets change. You know, you can't be so stuck on certain outcomes.

And sometimes, and I think this is the beauty of research and the research that's [00:50:00] happening here, sometimes you make these discoveries and it changes the course of what. The research becomes, and

I think that's a really powerful thing that's happening here, is that people are really attuned to these small discoveries that could change the course.


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Evan Troxel: The, one of the, the big messages at Autodesk University this year was the design and make platform. And obviously this is what we're talking about here, like where the rubber meets the road. This is, it's actually happening. And I think one of the big question marks, especially in the a EC sphere was like, what do you mean design and make? Because there is a [00:52:00] disconnection between design and make and, and the feedback loop is difficult at best, uh, when it comes to that because there aren't a lot of design builders. There's a lot of architecture design and, and design firms. But there's a handoff in that process when it goes to a contractor to actually build the thing. And then there's not a lot of incentive to share at

least perceived incentive, uh, to share that information, which obviously would benefit the whole process, right? Because if you can take the stuff that happens from the hands-on experience and apply it in the design process, then it makes the implementation process much more smooth. So. That's obviously what's happening here, right, is you've created this feedback loop and you are actually making good on this design and make, you know, marketing term as it as it is, but it, but it's also kind of an ethos, and so maybe you can just talk about that at, at Autodesk and what that means to you.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Um, one example I can think [00:53:00] of or that you've gotten me thinking of is relationships that we have with equipment manufacturers. Um, I think a lot of people assume that, you know, company like us, we buy a piece of equipment, we write the check and we say, okay, bye. Thanks. And maybe there's a technician that comes out.

Yeah. It it, they come out, they. Commission the machine. We sign a paperwork and then we're done.

But the relationship, uh, that we have with certain equipment manufacturers are so critical and

are so important to the ecosystem and how we, um, how we get our work done. And I really credit my boss, Adam Allard, with instilling this in me and the my colleagues, um, where this is not just a one and done deal.

Like we, we need to, they need to be accountable and we need to be accountable to them. These are relationships that we wanna have [00:54:00] over the long term. So we need to have a really good rapport with them. And. Really authentic rapport and be able to flag when things aren't going well and to celebrate the winds.

And with Mazak we have this, um, incredible five axis machine that you saw on the, when you were here last year. Um, it's a hybrid machine, so it's the first of its kind on the west coast, which is a big deal for us. And it's the third of his kind in private hands. They have one of these at Oak Ridge National Labs who we have a, you know, relationship with and talk to a lot.

But with Mazak, what we really wanted with bringing this machine on and what they were curious and interested in is having a machine that people could see and see showcased when we're giving tours or people come by or we do these interesting projects for Autodesk Research. And so. Our relationship is so strong with them [00:55:00] because we meet with them on a biweekly cadence and we report out on these are the things that are going really well.

These are the things we need some help with. Um, this is the post that fusion needs in order to make this better, that then we could, everyone can use it. Who's doing five axis machining or Hotwire deposition? So like we have a number of people on the call from different parts of the company who are making Maize X product better and Maize X's making our software better.

So it's, it's, uh, I, it, it wouldn't happen without these real relationships or like, Hey, something's going on. Okay, check this. Like we, we have them on speed dial and they can just talk to us like they're, they're great partners because we, we have real relationships with them. So,


Evan Troxel: you're actually using that, that equipment, like

it's actually in use in your facility. It's not like you're hearing this stuff thir, you know, secondhand from your users who are just using your software, who have that machine [00:56:00] if they're lucky enough to have that machine. But it's like really hands-on kind of feedback loop that

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah, that's right. And I think what's very cool about this space as well is that, you know, I can say the thing, same thing about Haw or about Haas or about Mark Forged, you know, it's, we're not just focused on one group or

one vendor or Yeah. We, um, it's, it's a, it's part of an ecosystem when we're telling a bigger story and when we have winds and the machine is, is doing great things, we're gonna feature that.

So that's a win for them because it's, you know, it's like good press for them, but we're not telling stories we don't believe in. And for me, and, you know, managing this space, it's really important. Like the, the health of my team is really critical to me. So I don't want someone who's constantly having to manage.

Fixing something that's always broken, like that's not a good machine, that's not a good story to me. So,

Evan Troxel: Yeah,

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: you know, I, I, I'm [00:57:00] constantly seeking out the things that are gonna work better. Of course, all equipment needs love, but, you know, I want the equipment that, um, you know, you give it some love and then it really sings for a while.

Like that. That's what I, that's what I'm after.

Evan Troxel: I think you just, you just titled this episode right there. This All machines Need Love. So, so where does this come from in Autodesk? Do you know the story about, about where, because obviously you know this, this whole, the investment and the actual r and d or not the, the technology centers that, that, that you have, they really matter to Autodesk obviously, or it wouldn't, but, but it's gotten to this point and there's a history there.

Do you know what that story is? Can you share that?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I think the technology center in San Francisco really grew out of the former CEO, Carl Bass's love of making things. And

he wanted a place where, and I think he really [00:58:00] understood, uh, the great value of being able to take, you know, 3D to or, or 3D drawing to 3D object, you know, like to, like the virtual, to the real.

And so I,

I think it. Started from there. He's no longer, you know, the CEO and the, the we've, we've really sort of changed as a, as a company. But I, I wouldn't like, I don't wanna give you the wrong answer, so I don't know, but I know that that's when I came on and I remember being like, whoa, that's the CEO of Autodesk just on the lathe making a baseball bat.

You know,


Evan Troxel: yeah.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: incredible. Or

he's making a go-kart with, for his son in the, you know, like, what, what's,

this is amazing. He really love and he has an incredible shop of his own now. And, you know, he's doing amazing things and, uh, but, but I think that he really understood the importance [00:59:00] of like software to reality.

And I think that's

Evan Troxel: to physical, right? Yeah, like

the actual,

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Digital to physical. Do I work here? Right?


Evan Troxel: well, there's a, there's a saying in architecture that is, if it, if it doesn't get built, it doesn't count.


And so, I mean, that makes sense. I

think because it's, it's like there's a difference between real architecture that actually people actually inhabit. And, and that's why we do it, is for those people versus paper architecture, right? And so bridging the gap between digital and physical is a real hurdle to get over.

And that can be, that, that is the difference of what makes a firm a firm that, that does real architecture versus a,

a paper architecture firm. Right. So for you, and getting back to that, when I brought up very early on in the conversation that book

the Shop as Soulcraft like, and it, because it really talks about the value of this work and the meaning. I'm, I'm just interested from your perspective [01:00:00] as we wrap up here, like what. What is the value to you? And obviously you're running this amazing facility, you've got an amazing team, you're on a mission, you are all on the same wavelength and purpose when it comes to that, and again, this is kind of where the rubber meets the road between design and make and and, and all of that.

So what does that mean to you to physically be making things and helping other people make things for the physical world?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: For me, it's a very empowering place to be because there, there's a lot of insight that comes from seeing something that's digital or digitally rendered, and then actually getting it to be something that's. Physical, that's something that has heft and weight and is cold or [01:01:00] warm to the touch or soft or sharp.

You know, there's, it's one thing to draw a radius, it's another to be so glad that radius is there. 'cause now you don't have a cut, you know, because the

the, the edge is so sharp.

Um, there's, there's a, I, I don't know. There's, I think there's just this full body experience of, it's, it's amazing to be able to create these things with digital tools.

Like, I don't, we can do so much because of that, but the, there's so much that goes into between that drawing. There's so much understanding that goes into, you know, from from CAD to cam. Like the human is the person that's instructing how you get from. You know, you, you desire this plane and so what, what in mill are you gonna use to get there?

And what's the RPM and is there coolant? Like, there's all [01:02:00] of this stuff that then when you

get on the actual machine, you're like, oh wow, that's a lot of cooling. I can barely see what's going on. Or, oh, that's really fast. Or, oh, there's chatter that's really dangerous. Like, you start becoming way more attuned to what's going on in the world and like the, the things you take for granted.

Um, because you know, if you're curious you might say like, I wonder how they manufactured that, or, ah, look, there's a seam line. There was that, was that, you know, mold, like, was that machine? Like, you know, I look at my iPhone all the time, I'm like, that's ingenious. Like,

how did they get there? So,

uh, I don't know.

There's something just constantly rewarding about being in a space where you can. Validate assumptions in a physically, I, I, I just think

that's, and it's, it's always, I'm a hands-on kind of learner in person, so that's, it's, it's my happy place personally, but yeah.

Evan Troxel: It's interesting to see it [01:03:00] happening at such a, I mean, it's obviously a very expensive facility. The

equipment that you have in there is very, but this does trickle down over time to people like me, right, where I've gotta shop and I want, I want to have, I want to be in control of being able to make my own things. Part of that's just because of the way I am wired. Part of that is like, there's nobody else around here who can do what I

want. 'cause they don't have that

vision or the tools to make that vision or the time to invest, to learn software, to make that thing. I just met a guy the other day who's a welder, who bought his own CNC machine because he bought a historic house from 1902 and he's gonna put in a spiral staircase and he wants to actually carve with this CNC machine, the ballusters that, that go up this.

And it's gonna be very intricate. And like, what's really interesting to me is that he's, it's a historic house. He wants to make it. Look and feel historic, and he is using completely modern tools to do that. But, but most [01:04:00] importantly, like he, it's just his, he's in control of all of it, right? Like there would be value in having a true crafts person come

in and carve all those the way that they're originally carved.

And I'm not trying to play that down at all, but, but this is something that like every night he's gonna make two of these things for the next few weeks, right? And he's gonna go through prototypes and he's gonna test it, and he's gonna try different mounting

styles and he's gonna try different wood. And he is gonna learn all about different bits and radii and all, all of these things as he's doing this and come out the other end with a huge value and purpose behind it all.

I think that, that, it's, it, again, I, I keep going back to this book, but it really talks about these ideas of the value of doing this kind of work. and again, we live in a world that's very disconnected from that entire process and I'm, I'm just happy to see places like the one that you're running, enabling. A different way of working to actually manifest things from digital to physical in the real world [01:05:00] for amazing purposes. And the, and the way that these companies come to you with proposals and they, they want to be a resident in your facility to, to do bigger things that make a bigger impact, but, but through actually making real things that, that, that do that, it's not just software running on a server somewhere.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I'm thinking about the Mazak again, where,

suppose you have a, a casting and it breaks and they don't make this casting anymore. It's from an old piece of equipment, but it needs to have this precision part to it so that something goes through it and there's no way to really chuck it up on a big, you know, or, or it would take too long to try to put it on a, a manual mill or lathe or whatever you needed.

So with the hot wire deposition machine, you could. Basically, you know, build up on this casting and get a near net shape. So it's almost what you want. And then you can machine it. So you're doing this additive and then subtractive in the same work envelope, and then your casting [01:06:00] is as good as new and, and so you're not, I don't know, your machine isn't just taking up space in the landfill or just being scrapped for parts.

You're actually, you

know, it's, it's, there's this idea that we can like, use these technologies so that we can like, you know, rebuild things that just

need a little bit of, you know, a


kick, a little help.

Evan Troxel: You can't get any

anymore. Anywhere. Yeah. There's no old, new, old stock. There's, or

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: And that's the power of being able to, to design all these things.

And then the more you know about, you know, like if you don't know something exists, you can't think in those ways. And so I think a lot of what the technology centers do is have this equipment and these resident projects kind of showcase.

Use cases that maybe research isn't aware of or thinking of. And it so it, it helps inform the research they're doing. So it's, it's, it's a

great proving ground and testing ground and you know, mistakes are made. And also there's a lot of [01:07:00] successes that come out of, look what I learned from this mistake.

You know, like, this is,

Evan Troxel: And then sharing that

out. yeah,

That, that, that is an incredibly valuable process and, and place to be. So I, I'm, I'm looking through my questions and I think you have answered everything that I wanted to talk about. Is there anything I, that we're forgetting here?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I don't think so. This has been, I was so nervous, Evan. So this has been so nice. Thank you for being such a great host and conversation partner. This is awesome.

Evan Troxel: Yeah.

I, I appreciate you coming on the show. Is there anything that you've made recently or, or that really stands out to you and it doesn't have to be recent, that, that you're really proud of, that you feel like is, is kind of indicative of? Because you've inspired me to like, get into my shop. I, I actually had to run power to my shop about 300 feet and

that was step one I got there.

Now I need to actually get in there and lay it out. Like it's a, it's a design process that I'm about to embark on. And, and there's gonna be a lot of failures. [01:08:00] Like, one of my favorite YouTube channels right recently is watching Adam Savage's Tested because he just redid his shop. He's probably right down the

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah. Yeah.

Evan Troxel: But it's like, it's just this incredible place to make things for the physical world. And I'm, I'm just re-inspired and, and by talking to you I am Is there anything for, on your, on your side that, that you've made or that, that, that just really

shows off what, what's possible?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: well, I, I just wanna give a shout out to. Constantly learning things. So I wanted to get more five axis machining experience. I have a person downstairs who can help me with certain things, but I ended up taking a class that a friend of mine was teaching and I was just like, nerd, nerd, you know, studying all the time.

Like every time I

was, soon, as soon as I'd go home, I'd be like, okay, I'm gonna try this. And I was, you know, there was tests and there was machine time and I made this, um, hammer that was, [01:09:00] uh, in many parts using a lot of different machines and, uh, a lot of the machines we had here. So I was very familiar with a lot of the workflows, but that felt really good to, I don't know, sometimes, you know, you wonder, can I still learn things?

And, you know, you can, but like, it, it was really, it was really, uh, comforting to know that, yeah, I was, my curiosity led to. Follow through of something that

was, you know, it was challenging at times. So I think I just wanna give a plug for like constantly be challenging yourself and, and, and, yeah, I felt very proud of, of doing something like that and um, it makes me just wanna get on fusion more and play around more and,

Evan Troxel: There's this idea that I'm playing with right now as a topic, uh, for a, for a future talk, but it's the, the importance of a side hustle and, and you said the word curiosity there and I think a side hustle's kind of taken on a, it's kind of a, you [01:10:00] know, it's, people don't like to to talk about side hustles because it means more work in a lot of people's interpretation of it.

Right. And, and we need enriching experiences outside of work because I think the thing that you were just talking about actually informs. Approach. It informs projects, it informs your experience and how you talk to people and it's brought inspiration maybe back to your job. And there is this kind of feedback loop

between our, the parts that make us up, right?

So there's like work life, home life, but hobby, life, side hustle, whatever you want to call it, right? Where that curiosity, can I even still learn things? Right. That's a great question to kind of, again, go into the proving grounds and and see that you actually can, because it reinforces who you are, but also it enriches the other parts of your life.

And anything, anything back, if I throw that out,

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Well, yeah. No.

Evan Troxel: what do you think?

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: I mean, definitely I have, I have a studio outside of work that I go [01:11:00] to, and that's, you know, how I spend my time when I'm not at work. I also really understand the value of like, rest and,


know, reading and, you know, music and there's, there's, but I, I think that what's so interesting when you, you, you maybe have this side project you wanna do or something that's gonna be, oh gosh, it's gonna take a long time.

Or, I don't actually know how to do that. But for me, at least when I start that process, it's so energizing and then suddenly I'm like, I can't get to sleep. But it's not because I'm stressed, it's because I'm trying to work out problems. And I'm like, oh my gosh, it feels so good to have that part of my brain flexing.

You know, like, so,

and then you start, you know, someone comes with something at work and. Of course there's something that they're working on that then sort of gets you to think about something else that you're working on, and then

you can have this conversation. Yeah, so I think it's like super generative and really productive and a, a really positive thing.

So [01:12:00] I, I, I believe in a side hustle and I believe that you should keep your, keep your brain active in other things. And, um, I think it can only lead to good things. I also really believe in rest, you know, and like, you know, sometimes you just gotta quit and you just gotta re recharge. I think that that's important to do too, because it's all

you, you know, you have one body, you have finite resources, so.

Evan Troxel: You're lucky you get to work with some incredibly talented people, some of the smartest people, I'm sure, and that. Is I, I'm lucky as well. I get to talk to people like you. I get to have people on the show who talk about what they're passionate about, what their purpose is, and all of those things, uh, is just, it's inspirational to me.

So thank you so much for

taking the time to have this conversation today, and I'll have links to where people can connect with what you're doing and, and you on LinkedIn as well in the show notes for this episode. And

is there anything else that, that you wanna point people toward that they [01:13:00] should know about when it comes to Autodesk Research?

And besides maybe just the basic web links, is there anything

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Yeah, no, I will, um, give you the links to the mach, to the, uh, teams that we talked about so

people can do a little more research

if they

Evan Troxel: Fantastic. All right. Well thank you and I hope to talk to you again.

Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough: Thanks so much, Evan. Bye.